Planned Giving

There are fewer Canadians making donations than in the past. From 2004 to 2013, we saw the total amount of donations made by Canadians increase from $10.4 billion per year to $12.8 billion. Since that time however, donation numbers have been dropping to a low of around $9 billion in 2015 (the most recent year that I could find final figures for).

Even more concerning is the number of Canadians that are making donations. One study I saw showed that the actual number of donors has been declining for 25 years now. These declining figures pose some significant risks for the many charities and non-profits that rely on donations to do their good work.

People make charitable donations for many reasons. The main ones are a strong belief in the organization or cause, a strong value for social responsibility and of course, to pay less tax. Many Canadians are struggling to make ends meet on their own these days and are having a tough time finding any extra money to donate.

But donating money doesn’t always have to be “in the moment” as you can give to a charity at one of two times – while you are living or after you pass away. If you elect to give to a charity when you pass on, there are some important issues to consider. Here are some of the different ways to structure your planned giving:

Cash – Specifying a set amount in your will to be gifted is pretty straightforward. However, it’s important to note that if you set out a specific amount and then leave the remainder to your children, they may be left with far less (or nothing) if your estate is smaller than you’ve expected.

Source – You can designate the money remaining in a bank account or the proceeds from the sale of your car. You may also elect to put a limit on this amount – the balance of your bank account but not to exceed $15,000. This is often the cleanest and easiest way to make a charitable gift after death.

Percentage of Estate – Although most commonly used, this approach is often not recommended for most individuals. Proper tax planning is very difficult as you don’t know what this amount will be. Designating a percentage also means that the recipient is entitled to a full accounting of your estate and is given access to far more information than most people feel comfortable with.

Investment Shares – Although not widely enough known, you can elect to donate shares of a mutual fund, segregated fund or stock directly to a charity. By doing so, your estate will not have to pay any capital gains tax on the growth of these investments and you will get the full tax deduction. This translates into less income tax for you and more money for the charity!

Life Insurance – Utilizing life insurance policies for planned giving is an excellent way to multiply your generous gift considerably. Through advanced estate planning, you can eliminate substantial taxes that are due and provide extra funds to both a charity of your choice and your family or loved ones. Some strategies have the charity named as the beneficiary of the policy while others prepare for the transfer of the policy’s ownership to the charity while you’re still alive. The first scenario allows you to maintain additional control over the policy while you’re alive, but the latter allows for earlier utilization of the tax credits. Everyone’s situation is different, and these strategies must be considered carefully.

Although many people would like to give more money to their favourite charities while they’re still alive, the reality of bills and other living expenses often makes it very hard to do so. Planned giving through your estate is a great alternative to give back to your community and leave a lasting legacy behind.